“You can’t care for others if you don’t take care of yourself.” I often heard and said this during my social work career. Little did I realize how relevant that information would eventually become in my own life and at a far earlier stage than expected.
My personal experience taught that we must customize our survival techniques. One size does not fit all. The following twelve ways to stay afloat in a sea of responsibility proved especially helpful to me.
- Accept the reality of a new normal, at least temporarily. Many of those chores, once deemed essential, no longer rate at all. As one foster mother told me, “Normal is just a setting on a clothes dryer.” At the same time, hang on to as much routine as possible.
- Pray, pray, pray. Have others pray for and with you. Remember the Holy Spirit will intercede when you don’t know how to pray or can’t find the words. (Romans 8:26) God knows and understands your anger, frustration, depression, loneliness, and all those other feelings swirling around your heart and mind. Your time and method of devotions will probably change, but the need for that time, whenever you can grab it, still merits priority.
- Surround yourself with support — family, friends, church, and neighbors. Keep them informed. In addition to the traditional telephone and personal contacts, we have email, special websites, social media, text messages, and assorted other methods of group updates with minimal effort. Allow them to love you in tangible ways. Ask for and accept help. You don’t have to do this alone. Food, laundry, breaks, errands — whatever you need, someone in your circle probably stands ready to fill in for you.
- Take respite time. A good night’s sleep or a day away does wonders for recharging your personal batteries. When that’s not possible, take mini breaks — a fifteen minute nap or a thirty minute walk or stretch — to transform your disposition.
- Give yourself permission to own your feelings. God created emotions, and grief does not limit itself to death and divorce. A good cry can be healing. However, if you find yourself stuck in anger or depression, seek professional help.
- Do something luxurious — a massage, a manicure, whatever suits your fancy. Exercise, good nutrition, and vitamin supplements are great, but we also need an occasional extraordinary pick-me-up.
- Snatch moments of fun together with the one in your care. Sharing jokes, finding the humor in what might otherwise be a humiliating circumstance, or occasional outings, when possible, remain as necessary to a relationship as before.
- Identify a person or group with whom you can bare your soul. Whether a family member, someone with a similar situation, a counselor, or a support group, this release provides freedom and understanding as nothing else can.
- Designate responsibilities outside the home. Ask another person to teach your Bible study class, lead the children’s choir, or whatever your role may be, unless you need that particular outlet.
- Identify ministry moments. In the midst of your difficulties, offer words of encouragement, a tract, or a testimony of hope. The other person benefits, definitely, but so do you. Seek ways for God to use you that may be more powerful than ever before.
- One day at a time is more than a cliché. Doing what you can when you can and accepting the reality of what you cannot continue to be as relevant as when “The Serenity Prayer” was first penned.
- Look for the rainbow. It will come. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).